Everybody needs love. Cops too.
So when I got invited to a surprise party for a cop whose fellow officers felt he had not gotten enough recognition, I accepted.
I figured it would be a way to make new connections. At the very least, there would be cake. I wasn’t disappointed on either count.
The gathering began as most parties do, with us huddled on the first floor of a spacious twin in Frankford, waiting quietly until the door opened and we all yelled, “Surprise!”
Officer Maurice Scott, a 49-year-old community relations officer from the 5th District, entered looking really confused at first. After all, it wasn’t his birthday. It wasn’t his anniversary.
He stood quietly, kind of taking it all in, as his fellow officers began speaking into a microphone about his accomplishments during his two-year tenure in the post:
Organizing 50-50 raffles to raise funds to support the Hero Thrill Show, which pays college tuition for the children of police and firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.
Creating a Halloween Treat and Meet at the 5th District, where residents of Roxborough, Andorra, and Wissahickon could get to know officers.
Producing an anti-violence program called “Give It a Shot” to help young people learn their constitutional rights and how to engage with police.
Calming an agitated student who had stashed an air gun at Walter B. Saul High School, recovering the gun.
“Even when faced with adversity, you continue to perform with the highest level of excellence,” said Officer Lila Barrett, the event organizer and Scott’s girlfriend, as she read from a plaque that was presented to him. “For as long as people show valor in their actions to protect others, there will be hope for our society. Thank you for your service.”
At one point, Scott’s son, a police officer in Fairfax, Va., talked about being at his station, watching CNN, and being startled to see his father running across the screen during that nearly eight-hour standoff in Tioga that left six Philadelphia police officers wounded in August.
“That was crazy," said Maurice Scott Jr. “He legit turned his back away from the shooter to get other people back. I think that describes his character. A lot of people, especially law enforcement, know you never turn your back away from a shooter. But he did that to save everybody else and get them back and a safe distance away. That’s what he’s done his whole career. He has put himself on the line to make a change in today’s society.”
Barrett passed me the mic for a mini-interview and I asked Scott a couple of questions, including what he thought about all the love gathered in the room. He choked up and his eyes filled with tears.
"This is real-life experiences going on, testaments,” pointed out Capt. Malachi Jones, who moved to the 5th District about a year ago. “Just total realness in the life of a wonderful officer who gives so much of himself and asks for so little in return.”
The evening more than made up for a day earlier this year, when Scott did not receive an award his colleagues thought he more than deserved.
"A lot of community relations officers got plaques and Maurice did not,” said Officer Robert Long, one of Scott’s coworkers. “I don’t know why he didn’t get a plaque as the first African American community relations officer of the 5th District.”
Not that Scott was worried about that. He learned a good lesson from his mother years ago: “When you give, don’t expect anything in return. God will bless you.”